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MC Hosts One-Day Art Festival With More than 350 Works For Area High School Students

For five years, now, McPherson College has hosted what might be the shortest art exhibit in Kansas.

Since 2011, the Central Kansas League has invited McPherson College to host its annual art festival, which was held this year on April 29.

The annual festival offers a professionally juried exhibition for high school students who are selected by their teachers at Sterling, Halstead, Hesston, Hillsboro, Haven, Kingman, Lyons, Nickerson, Pratt, Smoky Valley (Lindsborg), Larned and Hoisington.

This year brought about 120 students to campus with more than 375 works of art in a wide range of mediums – paint, pencil, ceramics, photography – even corrugated cardboard.

The subjects covered the gamut, too – a towering mobile of multi-colored paper cranes, photography of the lower half of a face caked in white and blue paint, a rosary so large that it would only be usable for a giant (presumably a Catholic one).

The show was juried by Frank Shaw, associate professor of art at Bethany College, and Mary Kay, professor of art at Bethany. Kay and Shaw said that rating such excellent and diverse artwork was a joy, and a job.

“Walking in the door,” Shaw said, “I realized that our work is going to be much more difficult than I had anticipated.”

While their work was judged, the young high school artists got to learn new skills in professional-level workshops – including pinhole photography, clay, plaster casting and quilting.

Wayne Conyers, McPherson College professor of art, said that the league festival used to be held in high school gymnasiums, with work hung on chicken wire. The workshops, meanwhile, were often held in unsuitable classrooms and even hallways.

In 2010, the head of the league that year proposed that the next festival be held at McPherson College. Conyers arranged to have MC as the festival’s host for 2011. The league has asked McPherson College to host the festival every year since.

Now instead of gymnasiums, students hang their work in McPherson College’s Friendship Hall gallery. Instead of hallways, high school students get to experience true college-level art studios.

Welcoming students to McPherson College, Dr. Bruce Clary, vice president for Academic Affairs at MC, applauded the high school students at the festival for pursuing their artistry and expressing themselves in their work.

“It’s one of the most elemental human impulses,” he said. “To create.”

Work from the show was posted on Twitter with the hashtag #cklart.